United States Air Force Major Adrianna Vorderbruggen was killed in a suicide vehicle bomb attack outside Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan on the fifth anniversary of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Tuesday, making her the first openly gay American female officer killed in combat. The 36-year-old made history in 2012 when she married her wife, Heather Lamb, and subsequently served openly in the military following the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Vorderbruggen and Lamb shared a four-year-old son.
“Our consolation is, we know she wanted to be there, she believed in and loved her work, and she was doing important work on behalf of the Afghans and our nation,” Lamb said in a text message to NBC News. “She has always been my hero, never more so than now.”
“We lost a member of our military family yesterday. Our friend, Air Force Major Adrianna Vorderbruggen, was killed while serving in Afghanistan,” Ariana Bostian-Kentes, president and co-founder of Military Partners and Families Coalition, said. “All military families understand that part of serving means the potential of sending their loved one into harms way, but no amount of understanding can reduce the pain of loss when they do not return. Major Vorderbruggen leaves behind her wife, Heather, and four year-old son, Jacob. As we try to find comfort in our community during this time we also extend our love and compassion to the five other U.S. military families who lost a loved one yesterday.”
Bostian-Kentes added, “Major Vorderbruggen was a person who lived for her family and for her country. She was one of the most friendly and laid-back people you could ever hope to meet and was an accomplished airman, a great athlete, and most of all, a wonderful mom. She leaves an indelible legacy of strength and selflessness to all those touched by her life.”
“Adrianna, Heather, and Jacob were part of our MPFC family nearly from the start and took great pride in being members of the military community,” Bostian-Kentes continued. “When their marriage was finally legally recognized, they celebrated by signing up Heather and Jacob as Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) dependents, taking a shopping trip to the commissary with the dependent ID card, and scheduling their first doctor’s appointment on base for Jacob. This family is the reason that the anniversary of repeal matters. The upswell in support and prayers offered by military families everywhere to Major Vorderbruggen’s is unique to those who know what it means to serve. This is what community is about, and this is why your MPFC family is unfailingly here for you.”
In total, six U.S. service members were killed in the attack, including New York Police Detective Joseph Lemm, 45; Air Force Sgt. Peter Taub; Staff Sgt. Michael A. Cinco, 28, of Mercedes, Texas; Staff Sgt. Chester J. McBride, 30, of Statesboro, Georgia; and Staff Sgt. Louis M. Bonacasa, 31, of Coram, New York.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter expressed his concerns and said the loss “serves as a painful reminder of the dangers our troops face every day in Afghanistan.”
Carter noted that on each stop of his visit last week to Afghanistan – which included stops on Bagram and Forward Operating Base Fenty in Jalalabad – he saw U.S. and Afghan troops working side-by-side.
“Our troops are working diligently alongside our Afghan partners to build a brighter future for the Afghan people. Their dedicated efforts will continue despite this tragic event,” he said. “Our deepest sympathies go out to the families of these brave Americans who died in service to this vital mission, and our thoughts remain with all of our troops serving overseas during this holiday season so that we may have peace and security at home.”
Tuesday’s deadly fire was one of the worst in recent history in a war that appeared to be winding down. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.